Americans Have Lost Their Puritan Work Ethic

Topics: Work ethic, United States, Working time Pages: 7 (2856 words) Published: September 17, 2012
The Puritans are a well known religious group. They were known for reasons that made them separate from the Catholic Church. They are also extremely well known for their strong work ethic. This ethic was the foundation of America and is now lost upon the Americans who depend upon their country to give them the material possessions they want but do not want to do any work for those things. A large number of people who came over to America from England in the 1600’s were Puritan. They moved to American because of strong religious beliefs and disagreements between their beliefs and those of the Catholic Church. They wanted a thorough reformation of the Catholic Church. They also strongly leaned their beliefs towards Protestantism and Calvinism. The Puritans had a very strong work ethic. They believed that “It is important for a person to work hard and achieve, as well as be thrifty, honest and respectful for authority.” (Puritan Work Ethic) Any success that came from living a life with this ethic in mind was a sign from God. These signs meant your life was going well and that God liked you. This was a good sign for your afterlife as well. This work ethic also fits along with the Protestant work ethic which was also that hard work and thrifty spending would give you financial success.

This work ethic is a moral in many stories. From Aesop’s fable about an ant and a grasshopper to stories about the devil, authors for ages have been teaching us that the only way to succeed in life is through hard work. In Aesop’s fable, the grasshopper learns a very important lesson about how hard work and preparation are the only ways to move forward in life.

During the 1600s and the 1700s many Puritans wanted to have literature to read, however fiction was not permitted because as they believed, fiction was a lie and lies were sins. Authors would get around this by tying parts of the story they are writing to real life. This includes having a setting the reader can recognize and a moral that is something they were trying to actually teach children at that time. This made it real to the reader and therefore made the story real.

A moral that was often taught was the Puritan work ethic. This was the ethic they lived by each day, so this was taught to all the children on a regular basis. A story that shows this teaching is the folk tale called Tom Walker and the Devil. In this story, Tom Walker makes a deal with the Devil and starts to swindle people for money. But at the end of the story when Tom dies when the devil takes him away and all that he had gained through his misdealings disappears. The story states that: “…all his bonds and mortgages were reduced to cinders. In place of gold and silver, his iron chest was filled with chips and shavings; two skeletons lay in his stable instead of his half-starved horses, and the very next day his great house took fire and was burned to the ground.” (Irving, 1991, p. 192) This was because all that he had gained was not earned by hard work; it was bargained for and therefore would not go to anyone else and bring them misfortune.

Other stories have had such morals or references. The Scarlet Letter shows Hester working for the money she needs to raise Pearl. In The Wish a modern novel by Gail Carson Levine, Wilma wishes to be the most popular girl at her school and she makes friends with everyone. When she graduates a few months later, the spell wears off and she loses all those friends because they were only results from the wish.

These are all stories that can be used to help children understand why it is so important to work for what we want. However, that is not how the children in America are being raised anymore. More and more children are being raised with the idea that they can get whatever they want. This has been a change in just the past few generations. As recently as the 1980s people believed in versions of the Puritan work ethic.

Today’s society has become a very fast paced...
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